Category: Interviews

Cannes: Simon Baker on Life After ‘The Mentalist,’ His Directorial Debut and French Celebrity

HOLLYWOODREPORTER.COM – Simon Baker is looking tired. The Australian-born star of CBS’ global hit The Mentalist is still recovering from jet lag and a lack of sleep since hopping a plane to Cannes. So he fits in with the crowd of sleep-deprived producers, stars, journalists and critics that stumble along the Croisette.

“Everyone looks horrible!” he jokes.

The Mentalist ended its successful seven-season run in February. Suddenly finding himself with time on his hands, Baker is in Cannes pitching his directorial debut, an adaptation of the 2008 novel Breath by Australian writer Tim Winton.

Baker helped co-write the script and is producing the film, which is set in a small coastal town in West Australia in the 1970s. It looks at two daredevil teenage surfers who bond with a reclusive surfer — played by Baker — who challenges them to go to new levels of recklessness. It’s a story that immediately spoke to Baker, who grew up in a costal Australian town much like the fictional Sawyer depicted in Winton’s novel. After helming several episodes of The Mentalist, the actor, 45, thought it was time to make the leap to feature films. “I enjoy being the control freak, having that influence,” he tells THR. “Often when you are acting, you do your thing and then you hand it over to someone else. This is all mine.”

But though he’s in Cannes as a producer and director, Baker is still enjoying the celebrity double-takes he gets, particularly here in France, where The Mentalist is the top-rated show on television. “I got into the elevator at my hotel a few hours ago and the bellboy looked up. When he saw it was me he turned bright red,” says Baker, “then he broke out laughing. He didn’t even say a word.”

What’s its been like doing the dirty work of financing and producing Breath?
All this time trying to figure out and organizing the financing has been a real eye opener and not the most pleasurable experience for me. It’s been hard to disconnect creatively from the piece and talk about it like a product. That’s obviously a necessary evil, but that’s been challenging.

What’s the appeal of Tim Winton for you?
The exported idea of Australians is more like me: blond, outdoorsy guy who drinks too much and is a bit brash. Tim Winton manages to combine that traditional, rugged Australian view of things with a more deep and sensitive side. … I spent some time with him and we really identified on a certain level. He grew up in a coastal area too, he’s into fishing, surfing and all that stuff. He’s really a man’s man, but he has been interested in literature and writing from a very young age. I grew up in this environment where there were six guys to one girl, very male-dominated, but I secretly wanted to become an actor. I understand where he is coming from, how difficult it is in that environment to become your own person.

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Interview: The Mentalist star Simon Baker is set to close the casebook as series comes to end – IT’S seven years since Simon Baker debuted as TV’s Patrick Jane, the fraudulent – and successful – psychic who uses his skills to help the California Bureau of Investigation solve murders.

But now the series is coming to a close, and the 45-year-old actor admits it’s the right time.

The dynamic of the series changed, he notes, after his character’s quest for revenge – against the serial killer who murdered his wife and daughter – was concluded last season.

“That’s all he was living for,” says the Australian star, who had roles in Aussie soaps Home And Away and Heartbreak High before moving to the US.

“Once he catches the bad guy and exercises revenge, what has he got?”

Instead, The Mentalist’s seventh and final season will delve into Jane and FBI agent Teresa Lisbon’s much-anticipated relationship.

“We’re now going to shift the dynamic of the show, to the perspective of two adults who work together,” explains Baker.

“Can they succeed in having a relationship at the same time, or are they too selfish, too self-destructive?”

After being colleagues for almost a decade, he admits the change in their fictional relationship took a bit of adjusting to.

“It’s a little bit like kissing my sister,” confesses Baker, who’s been nominated for two Golden Globes during his career; in 2002 for US TV series The Guardian, based on a Pittsburgh law firm, and later for The Mentalist.

The ending of the show might already have been dictated, but the actor, who has three children with his wife, Australian actress Rebecca Rigg, confesses he was hoping for a “slightly different” finale.

“I think the most tragic endings are more romantic in a way. I also think about the character that I signed on to play,” he adds. “He was a tragic character from the beginning, and to me, it only ever felt right that there was sort of a tragic ending to it.”

In real life, Baker has been happily married to Rigg since 1998.

“It was pretty crazy, in that I was as young as I was,” says the actor, who was 29 when the couple tied the knot. “It’s not that young, but I was unemployed and didn’t have a pot to p**s in! But you’ve got to take risks.”

Despite spending most of his career on the small screen – though millions will also recognise him from 2006 movie The Devil Wears Prada – The Mentalist star admits he believes that TV series can sometimes patronise audiences.

“The audience should be treated with a certain level of intelligence, and I get very upset when we talk down to them. It annoys me,” he reveals.

“The audience is savvy, they know the characters, they’re going to get those leaps, and even if they don’t, they’ll enjoy the speculation about it. We don’t need to force-feed them.”

Baker, who was presented with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2013, doesn’t deny that his starring role in The Mentalist has taken a toll on his private life.

“Everyone misses privacy, whether you’re in the public eye or not. But there are a lot of positive things that are exchanged. I’ve had a fantastic experience,” he adds.

He’s excited about enjoying some downtime with his nearest and dearest, now that filming’s over.

“I’m looking forward to enjoying the simple things socially, actually reconnecting with friends and family that I’ve been a little bit out of the loop with for the last seven years.

“I’d love to be the assistant coach of my kids’ soccer team, and actually be able to go to practices, or just go camping,” adds Baker, who, as Patrick Jane, reportedly became one of the highest paid actors in TV.

But he doesn’t want to lose momentum either, and is keen to further the producing and directing skills he also honed on the series.

“I like the idea of developing and producing something from the beginning, maybe a mini-series. I’m interested in finding material to do that with, and also partnering up with the right people.”

As for the keepsake he’ll take from his memorable time on The Mentalist, that’s easy…

“I might take a suit or two. They’re made for me and have my name on them,” says Baker. “I’ll keep them for my sons.”

l The final series of The Mentalist begins on Channel 5 on Thursday, February 12.

Simon Appeared On The Ellen DeGeneres Show

My apologies for not mentioning this earlier … I feel terrible for missing it! Simon was a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show today (January 23rd). Simon was on hand to help Ellen get ready for her trip Down Under with a game all about Australian trivia! I will try to get my hands on the full interview for your viewing pleasures! In the meantime, take a look at the fun clip below: